While 2022 might be just around the corner, it’s clear that ’90s trends have a tighter grip on current hairstyles than claw clips did in the actual era. Everything from Baby Spice pigtails to chunky highlights and braided tendrils has come back with a vengeance, spotted atop the scalps of practically every it-girl over the past year.
The latest ’90s-inspired trend, however, pulls inspiration from the ultimate nostalgic fashion icon: Barbie. Yes, the “Barbie” ponytail — also known as the ’90s or flippy ponytail — is back, and it’s trending just in time for the new year. Essentially, it’s a high pony with curled strands, oftentimes with a swoop of side bangs sweeping across the forehead. The elegant yet whimsical updo can be dressed up or down and works for all hair types. And it’s actually easy to recreate.
Obsessed? You’re not alone. Read on for expert tips on how to achieve the iconic Barbie ponytail in the comfort of your own home.
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1. Prep Your Hair
First, be sure to wash and dry your hair, as this style works best on clean strands. “Prep hair with a thermal protection spray and dry completely,” Min Kim, celebrity hair colorist and L’Oreal Professionnel global artist, tells Bustle.
Once fully dry, apply a cream product to help smooth the base of your hair. “Run this through your hair, just away from the root to your ends,” Candice Hollub, bridal hair educator and owner of The Lovely Hair Class, advises, noting her go-to smoothing salve is Moroccan Oil’s Smoothing Lotion.
2. Section & Pull Back
To truly lean into the ’90s vibe, frame your face with tendrils — but make sure to section those pieces out with a clip. “Gather the rest of your hair and form it into a high pony, using two or three clear elastics,” Hollub tells Bustle. Pro tip: “Use a beard brush to smooth your hair back to form it into a ponytail and get a smooth, shiny finish.”
If you’re unsure where to place the pony, Kim has a good rule of thumb: Place your pony on the crown of your head, in line with your chin and cheek. “This will give the face a lifting effect and allow the pony to swing fabulously,” she says. She recommends you angle your head back slightly when securing your ponytail to avoid loose hairs at the nape.
3. Curl The Ponytail
Once your hair is in the ponytail, start curling, making sure to style it all in the same direction, says Hollub. She suggests achieving the style via a 1.25-inch curling iron, such as the Bio Ionic Long Barrel Styler. If you have thinner hair or would rather style sans heat, Kim prefers the L’Oreal Professionnel Steampod for this look.
“For a glam wavy pony, create soft bend throughout the hair by wrapping your strands around the tool and twisting as you guide the Steampod from root to tip,” Kim says. Once curled, finish with a medium-hold hairspray.
4. Comb Out & Curl Tendrils
Wait until your curls have cooled down, then take a four-prong comb to fluff the curls out. “This tool gives you control and volume all in one,” Hollub says, suggesting you tease the top two layers out of your pony for the ultimate lift. “Grab a small strand of hair from the underside of your ponytail and wrap it around the elastics so you can't see them, and secure with a bobby pin,” she advises.
Then, curl your front-framing pieces away from the face, says Hollub.
5. Finish With Hairspray
Once you’ve completed steps one through four, finish with a stronger hold hairspray to lock in the style, such as the Kenra Spray 25. Et voila: the perfect ’90s Barbie ponytail.